A Life About to Start When Tomorrow Comes
(A/N: The cast members I have in mind for this are from the movie that just came out – therefore Marius is a redhead, Enjolras is a blonde, etc. Thank you!)
Chapter 1: Duty
Her chest heaved and her forehead was slick with a mixture of sweat and rain as Éponine Thénardier dashed through the streets of Paris in the ever-present downpour.
"Ponine, who was that girl?"
Her feet hit the wet cobblestones, nearly causing her to slide off them, but years of rushing up and down alleyways had taught her to keep her balance.
"Do this for me, Éponine. Discover where she lives."
Éponine fought to keep the words out of her mind as she replayed the conversation, but the next sentence in the conversation came nonetheless: "See, I told you so; there's lots of things I know."
The look in Marius' eyes when he had seen Cosette – for Éponine was sure that was who the mysterious girl was – broke more than her heart. It shattered her soul. And of all people, of all the women in Paris, it had to be Cosette... little, Lark Cosette, who Éponine teased and prodded at when she was a girl. Who had nothing when she had everything. Now, with the blonde dressed in the style of the bourgeoisie, with clean hair and a healthy amount of flesh clinging to her bones, Éponine had the sinking feeling the old adage was right – what went around really did come around.
She turned the corner, and there it was – the house. She watched as Cosette and the former mayor – Éponine wasn't even sure of his name anymore, it seemed to change every day – climb out of their carriage and swiftly dash into the safety of the house, assuming that no one had seen them. But Éponine knew enough, and though it would kill her, she wanted to see that smile on Marius' face, just once more. With only the smallest of hesitations, she turned around and scurried back into the shadows, hurrying to the café to return the news.
Enjolras's speeches were always something to praise, but that evening, he was truly in top form.
He raved about revolution, about the future Republic and the need to keep the glory of France and her people alive. His green eyes were animated as his hands gestured left and right, and he was so absorbed into his own thoughts that it wasn't until he asked them a question – "For who do we fight, les amis, if not for the Patria?" – and was greeted with nothing but the chattering of the men in the room.
His brown creased into a frown as Enjolras located the source of the talk and laughter – one of his (unfortunately) closest and best friends, a man he would call his brother without a second thought – Marius Pontmercy. Switching into the conversation that was being had, Enjolras was mildly disgusted by what he heard. Words about some girl – "hair of spun gold, eyes blue as the sky in summer", all that usual nonsense – followed by some comment from a barely conscious Grantaire about Dom Juan and never believing Marius was capable of falling for a woman.
The latter was something Théodore Enjolras had previously admired about his friend. He himself was no stranger to women – he had bedded a few, though he hardly felt anything emotional towards a lady. While the other men kept mistresses and spoke of the beauties they had at night between the sheets, Marius and he were the two who kept their minds on what was important – the revolution. But now that his friend was head over heels for this bourgeois girl, Enjolras was the only one to have not yet fallen into a woman's prey.
And he was determined to keep it that way.
After all, his love was France, the Patria, a better world for his country and his people. He didn't need a woman if he had that.
Enjolras jumped from the table he had been standing on during his ignored speech, and in two long strides he was next to the freckled Marius. With a few snide comments towards Grantaire (who only smirked and drank a bit more from his bottle), he managed to remind the room of their priorities.
Patria, then pussy.
That was the order things ought to be in.
And though les Amis de l'ABC seemed to be moved by his words, Enjolras had no doubt they would return to their homes and their apartments and their flats and have their share of a woman.
If only his men thought the way he did.
Her heel was bleeding after having slipped on a wet cobblestone, feet barely covered by some loose cloth sewn to vaguely resemble shoes, but Éponine made it to the café, stumbling into the wonderfully dry building and rushing up the stairs, not caring to pick up her skirt in order not to trip. She arrived, and the men were jolly as ever.
Didn't they know the revolution wouldn't solve anything? Parisians were cowards, at best. The people cared more about their families than the country's well-being. The men didn't want their wives and children to be left to their own devices if they were to fall in battle. They wouldn't show when the time came, she knew it.
Her heart sunk as she spotted Gavroche, laughing at something Combeferre had said. Her younger brother was much more courageous than she was. She couldn't risk leaving her family, it wasn't possible for her. But Gavroche was free, and therefore he was happy, and Éponine couldn't help but feel jealous.
Her heart only sunk further when she caught sight of Marius, his eyes animated in such a way that she knew the topic of his conversation must be the beauty he had seen that day – darling Cosette. She shut her eyes and pretended that each time he described her hair, he spoke of dark, nearly chocolate-brown locks, and her eyes were grey, not blue, and her skin wasn't so fair, but it was hardy and strong and –
"Ponine!" Éponine snapped out of her reverie as she heard the familiar voice burst out of the familiar lips on the familiar boy. He rushed towards her, disregarding his friends' looks, and for a moment Éponine felt truly special in the eyes of Monsieur Marius.
He rushed to her side and looked her in the eyes, and she felt her heart squeeze and yank and pull. "Ponine, did you find it?"
She hated herself for doing it – really, she did – but Éponine bit her lip and bobbed her head once in a nod.
A grin, even larger than the before, exploded on his face, and with a quick look over his shoulder at the Amis to make sure no one was watching (everyone was, but turned away the moment he checked), Marius followed the girl out of the café.
Enjolras had a particularly keen eye, but that wasn't what allowed him to see Marius slip out the door. There was a girl with him, and though she certainly wasn't the bourgeois girl he was insane about, she had a sort of aura of beauty radiating off of her, despite the street grime and the skirt and chemise she wore – hardly appropriate clothing, but she clearly didn't have a choice in the matter.
She had been to meetings quite a few times, and Gavroche seemed to know her well. He thought she came mostly for Marius, rather than the actual idea behind each meeting, and spent most of the meeting watching him, lost in her own thoughts.
For the life of him, Enjolras couldn't remember her name. It was... disgraceful, to say the absolute least. He was fighting for the poor to be recognised and helped, rather than ignored and berated, and yet he couldn't remember this lower-class woman's name. He knew Marius had introduced them once upon a time, something with an E...
Shaking his blonde head clear of the thoughts, Enjolras sat at the table and pulled out his textbook, preparing his schoolwork – he was, by his father's request, a scholar of the law – and set about writing his paper. He would ask Marius her name when he returned.
Curled up in a corner of some deserted alley, Éponine hardly felt a thing except distinct pain. There was a pain aching from her heart, stinging on her cheek, and in her bones. It was as if she couldn't escape from it.
She rubbed at her cheek, and as she did so, the feeling and the sound of her father slapping her came swiftly, and startled by the sudden recollection, Éponine dropped her hand. Her tears tasted salty on her tongue, and she barely noticed her shivers as the wind blew against her wet skin, cooling her off further than before. Night in Paris was particularly cruel, especially for a young street urchin, and when she heard footsteps echo off of the walls, Éponine instinctively brought her hands up to cover herself, still sniffling.
"Non, monsieur," she begged, knowing she didn't sound quite as intimidating as she usually did, with the tears streaming down her face. She turned her face towards the wall, determined not to meet this stranger's eye. "Not tonight."
And not just any kind of sobbing. The sound Enjolras had stumbled upon on his way to his flat was the heart-wrenching kind of sobbing, that he had never experienced but as he stood there, at the end of a long, dark alley, he recognised it instantly.
It sounded as if the victim was hopeless. As if there were nothing left.
Which was preposterous. There was always France.
But this desperate sound, he couldn't ignore it. Ignoring it meant being just like the king, and the policemen, and everyone who just walked away from those in need without a second thought. Ignore the horrible wails would be going against everything Enjolras believed in.
So, with a determined mind and a ready step, he turned into the alley.
In a pile of misery sat Marius' shadow, her face turned away as she muttered something, something he couldn't quite hear, even as he got closer.
Enjolras cleared his throat. The muttering stopped, but besides that, no reaction. He contemplated nudging her with his foot, to make sure she was alive, but he noticed her shivers. She was actually shivering too much, and Enjolras automatically took off his jacket and draped it over her trembling body.
The least he was expecting from that was a scream, but oh, what a scream it was. It must have pierced the walls and woken up the men lying on their whores in the brothel next door. Enjolras's eyes widened and he attempted to shush her, but the girl shook her head wildly and threw his jacket off of her.
And now is as good a time as ever to mention that in that dark, wet alley, he first fully noticed her beauty. Her hair was sticking to her face, her grey orbs were widened and urgent, and the whites around them were bloodshot. The clothes she wore – the same chemise and skirt she had been wearing in the café – were disastrous, covered in mud and torn. She wasn't the stereotypical sort of damsel in distress, and she certainly didn't look particularly attractive when she cried. Enjolras had read countless poems about maidens weeping in the moonlight, each resembling like a goddess from Greek mythology, but this girl was nothing like that. Her face was screwed up into a tragic sort of grimace, but somehow... it was alluring. A tragic sort of beauty.
She cut him off – no one had ever cut Enjolras off. Ever. "No, no, I... no." Leaving his jacket in a pile of mud, she ran out of the alley and disappeared, and despite his best judgement, the blonde boy did not follow her.